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The sky’s the limit for Starbucks apprentices

15 May 2019

Working for one of the biggest names in coffee shops worldwide has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for Waterside men, Stephen O’Hara and Calvin Hume.

Based at Starbucks on Crescent Link, Calvin and Stephen have risen through the ranks from baristas to coffee masters to their current positions of supervisors thanks to apprenticeships through Babcock Training. It’s proved to be the perfect career path for two young men who were undecided about what to do with their lives.

Stephen, now 24, said: “I started a part-time job in Starbucks but I saw an ad for the apprenticeship and my manager told me about the benefits and gains from doing one, as well as the fact that it’s paid, so I thought I might as well. I finished my apprenticeship in Level 3 Hospitality, Supervision and Leadership last year.

“I’ve been here nearly five years and I’ve worked my way up the ladder. I love everything about it, especially the camaraderie, I see the people I work with more than my actual family. I really enjoy the role of supervisor.

“The apprenticeship was great, it was really good having the one-to-one with a tutor, Gillian. She was always there, no matter what, she was only just an email away and she never left me stuck and she was always so patient, she knew how busy we are here. If I was struggling to meet a deadline, she would either extend it or help me meet it. She was always pushing me, the support I got from her was unbelievable.

“Having the qualifications, particularly the Level 3, probably helped me get my job as supervisor, I learned a lot of valuable information. A lot of courses are just about listening and there’s not a lot you can apply in the real world, but everything I learned on the apprenticeship was applicable in this job.

“Gillian would come into work after I finished a shift so it was really handy. We would go over what I had done – I had to keep a really detailed journal – and she would make sure I fully understood what I was talking about. She would also do a voice recording for her records so I could keep track of everything I had achieved.

“The apprenticeship is very well done, the way it’s set out. I have applied and been accepted into university three times – but each time when it comes to it, I just think ‘no’. A degree is a lot of money for something that you don’t know for sure you want to do. I would recommend the apprenticeship path 100 per cent to anyone. It didn’t feel like ‘education’.”

21-year-old Calvin joined Starbucks two years ago after leaving school with no firm idea about what to do next. He said: “I got a part-time job and went on the Starbucks Experience after a couple of months where they mentioned apprenticeships. I came back and said to my manager that I would be interested but she said I had to be with the company longer, but she let the area manager know I was keen and she got back to me and got me signed up with Babcock Training. I’ve now completed Level 2 Food and Beverage and I’ve signed up for level 3 this week!


“Through Babcock, I also got my English while doing level 2, because I had left school without it, so that’s a great benefit.


“The apprenticeship is pencilled into your shift so you can go straight into it, you don’t have to come in on your day off, so it works really easily. The course also gives you so much experience, if I hadn’t done it, I probably would have stayed a coffee master and not moved into a supervisor position.


“It’s also a great way of learning. The tutors are very straight-to-the-point, they help you find the simplest way of doing things. Hugh would explain everything that I had to do in a very clear way so I would know exactly what I had to do for each test or observation.


“Starbucks is a very fast-paced environment, you have to be on your toes, but doing the apprenticeship prepares you for that. I would certainly recommend it to others. I get paid for being an apprentice while getting all the perks of the job too.


“I enjoy doing this work and it’s become even more enjoyable since I became a supervisor. I feel more confident, more mature, you have to be patient and professional. I’ve got all this experience and the qualifications too so I can do so much in the future.”


Andrea Smyth, Manager of Starbucks Crescent Link, said: “There are a lot of advantages to having apprentices. We know they will be more involved in what’s happening on their shift, it gives them a better understanding of why we ask certain things of them from a business point of view and we find apprentices want to learn and want to stay. They get something extra out of the job, not just the basics. I would definitely recommend it to other businesses, it gives your staff encouragement to stay and the opportunity to grow within the company. It also builds a lot of confidence in an individual and that’s something that will never leave them.”


The placements came about through Babcock Training which is contracted by the Department for the Economy to supply level two and level three Apprenticeship programmes in hospitality, retail and customer service to young people aged between 16 and 24.


Maria Clifford from Babcock said: “Babcock Training is a trusted name across the training and apprenticeships market.  We have an enviable track record in delivering intelligent and compelling workforce development solutions to local employers. All elements of the Apprenticeship provision is delivered in the workplace by the sector qualified Regional Trainers and Essential skills tutors and we are graded as an ‘outstanding provider’ by the Education Training Inspectorate (ETI).”


Babcock is one of several training organisations working with Derry City and Strabane District Council as part of its Apprenticeship Campaign.


Tina Gillespie, Skills Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council, wants to highlight the importance of apprenticeship opportunities for young people in the Council area. She said: “The Council is working very proactively with a number of education providers, private training organisations, careers service and companies to encourage people to avail of apprenticeship opportunities that exist across the Council area. The promotion of apprenticeships is a key element of the education and skills outcomes set out in the Council’s Strategic Growth Plan and overseen by the Education and Skills Partnership.


“The Education and Skills Delivery Partnership (ESDP) was established as an outcome delivery partnership under the Strategic Growth Plan, to support the education and skills ambitions outlined in the plan. Along with our partners, we are supporting employers to secure and develop the skills they need to increase productivity, and enable individuals to find fulfilling employment and progress in today’s competitive and dynamic world of work.

“Apprenticeships encourage young people to look at vocational options for training in their chosen profession through on-the-job training, study, an industry-recognised qualification and earning a wage.


“We are delighted at the successes of Stephen and Calvin and hope that they will encourage more young people to look at the many apprenticeship opportunities that exist across many sectors, from engineering and law, to construction and fashion design.”

For further information on Babcock Training and the apprenticeships they offer, contact Maria on 078 9460 4288 or [email protected] or to find out more about apprenticeships in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, visit: www.getapprenticeships.me